No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
The Pusher Wins in Minecraft Vs. Pokemon

Firefilm | 9 Jul 2012 16:00
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Dan: Does anyone know what the heck Chris is talking about in this article? I assume it has to do with Pokémon, because it resembles the five minutes of footage I had to leave on the cutting room floor for time. Random words strewn together with hit points as the verbal mortar, I have always had a tough time with the card games.

I chaperoned a field trip at a summer camp once, and the kids kept begging me to play Pokémon. Refusing on the basis that I had no idea how to play didn't deter the little Pokémasters, and they gave me a crash course and plopped some cards in my hand. I watched as four children calculated the exact move to make, finally settling on the perfect cards with which to destroy their teacher. Very unsure, I laid down a single card and watched as their faces dropped. Evidently I won, a fact they had to explain to me as they packed up their cards and shuffled away.

Someday I will be called upon as Dan, the last Poké-bender. I await my destiny.

This was a fun one to judge, due to the enthusiasm supplied by Chris and my personal love of Minecraft. Kyle brought the heat and grabbed the first point with the argument that Minecraft is meditation. Besides a break now and then to pour saline in your eye, the game is everything and nothing at the same time. Harvesting, building, exploring ... everyone can find something they like and that something is no more or less important to the game than anything else. Go spelunking, build a mountain out of lava, spend your nights hunting monsters ... it's all good.

Chris then spat out a series of words that I am sure mean something to someone, but did manage to make a good point. Unlike Minecraft, Pokémon has preset goals, and a lot of them. There is so much to do, and do correctly, that if you try to beat the game in every way the programmers intended, you might want to buy a new pack of razor blades. Cause you'll be growing a beard. Even the ladies.

Kyle saw an opening and took it on the next point. Minecraft doesn't have to end, and even though it recently got an "Ending", there's really no reason to shoot for said ending. Endermen and zombies don't come to you and say "You'll never defeat our dark lord!" and likewise the NPCs don't go around begging you to save them from anything. With no real endgame, there can be no end. Infinity is a very long time to sink your time into.

Chris fought back with a real killer argument, the addictive nature of adding friends. The only reason I still play Minecraft is because I have a friend who plays it with me, but the game doesn't require it the way Pokémon does. Having assistance in building is fun, but it's not like there are structures that you can only build with help. Perhaps if the console, mobile and PC versions all talked to each other, but they don't. Having a group of friends who all group-think and peer pressure into continuing a game so that they can achieve their own game goals adds years to playability.

Did someone say surprise Batcave? Kyle did, and it deserved a point. One of the more addictive aspects of Minecraft is the ability to be digging for resources and accidentally break into a massive and hellish cavern you didn't realize was there. The claustrophobia and darkness urges you to plant torches, but you need coal and wood, so you look for them. While looking for them, you find another cavern ... this one with lava! And so the pattern continues, cycling between exploration and creation. In Pokémon you search for creatures, sure, but they aren't randomly generated. The sheer surprise of the unknown ... I eat it up.

RPG. Pokémon is one. Minecraft is not. That alone gives an advantage to Pokémon in terms of addiction. People can't turn a game off if they are just a few whatever's away from leveling up; no matter how many times their boss asked if they were coming into work. Chris nabbed that one easy.

Kyle would have gotten a point for his final word, but he got it wrong. Simply mentioning Inception is not what he meant, and though he explained it to me off camera, it was too late. What he meant to say was that Minecraft is like the deepest level of dream in Inception, where Leo spent a lifetime building a city with his crazy French wife. Chris took advantage of this by belting out a tune and reminding us that even when you turn off Pokémon, there are cards, cartoons, and merch ready to remind you that it might be time to boot up again. Marketing is a powerful tool, especially when applied to getting you addicted to drugs.

And so there you have it. Minecraft's low learning curve and zen-like nature just couldn't compete against the jittery mayham that is Pokémon. Chris is in an alleyway now, offering to level up your character for a dollar. I should really get him into rehab.

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